Sunset Ethics, 9/30/2020: Conflicts Of Interest, Sexual Harassment, Movies And Lies

1. Conflicts of interest on my mind. I narrowly averted a disastrous conflict of interest yesterday out of pure moral luck, so the topic is much on my mind; I’m still distracted by the near miss. Professionally, it was the equivalent of almost being picked off by a bus.

NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg reacted to the death of Justice Ginsburg with an essay on her 48-year friendship with RBG, saluting Ginsburg’s “extraordinary character.” That’s funny: Totenberg never told NPR’s listeners, nor did  NPR, that she had a personal relationship with the Justice, despite being charged with covering the Court and critiquing its decisions.  Kelly McBride, NPR’s public editor and senior vice president of the Poynter Institute, threw a metaphorical ethics foul flag,

“In failing to be transparent about Totenberg’s relationship with Ginsburg over the years, NPR missed two opportunities,”she wrote on the NPR website. “First, NPR leaders could have shared the conversations they were having and the precautions they were taking to preserve the newsroom’s independent judgment,” McBride said. “Second, having those conversations in front of the public would have sharpened NPR’s acuity in managing other personal conflicts of interest among its journalists.”

Ginsburg, who officiated at Totenberg’s wedding in 2000. Nonetheless, the correspondent,  who wears her progressive bias on her sleeve as it is, denied that the conflict compromised to her journalism, telling  the Washington Post that NPR’s listeners benefited from ther friendship because it gave her greater insight into and Ginsburg’s  thinking.

And that justifies keeping the relationship secret from listeners how, Nina?

2. From the “When ethics alarms don’t work” files: Lawyer Phillip Malouff Jr. of La Junta, Colorado, was censured for a series of episodes of unprofessional behavior and sexual harassment.

In November 2016, Malouff  winked at a magistrate judge and said, “When you get back from your vacation, I better be able to see your tan lines.” When he visiting the same magistrate’s chambers to discuss scheduling matters, he  said, according to the female judge,: “Ask your husband a question for me when you get home tonight. Ask him what it’s like to have relations with someone who wears the robe. It has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but there have never been any women judges until now.”

Malouff  was informed that his comments were unprofessional and a violation of the Colorado Judicial Department’s anti-harassment policy. Ya think?

In July 2019, Malouff asked a judicial assistant to check whether the mother in a parental rights hearing had an outstanding warrant. When the assistant replied, “She is good.” Malouff  responded, “Her husband told me that she is good.

Wink wink, nudge nudge. Continue reading

Pre-Debate Ethics Distraction, 9/29/2020: Prediction: Whatever Happens, I’m Going To Hate It, And The News Media Will Lie About It.

The question for the ages: Was this the most unethical pair in a Presidential debate before tonight?

1. Well this seems ominous. This morning the Trump campaign requested  that a third party inspect both candidates for electronic devices or transmitters. President Trump had already consented to such an inspection, and the Biden campaign had reportedly agreed to this days ago. The New York Post reported a few hours ago that the Biden camp refused the condition.

What’s going on here? I can only assume that it’s gamesmanship. Biden would be beyond demented to try to cheat in a broadcast debate.

2. Here are results of the FIRE’s college free speech rankings survey, as determined by students. My alma mater ranked #46 out of the 56 schools ranked; no surprise there. The school I worked for as an administrator after getting my law degree there is two slots worse.

3. Prediction: It will not end well for poor David Hogg. I foresee a tragic opera in his future. Too young for the prominence he was thrust into as a survivor of the Parkland shooting, cynically exploited by the news media and activists who did not care about him, he is now condemned to have no support from any quarter. His best course would be to quietly leave the public gaze forever, and fight off the addiction of fame. It’s not easy. Continue reading

Thursday Ethics Thirst-quencher, 8/20/2020: Actually, This Doesn’t Taste So Good….

I filled in a gap in my history knowledge today, one I’m embarrassed to have had for so long. I remember being creeped out the first time I heard John Hinckley crooning the song he dedicated to Jodie Foster on her answering machine at Yale. “Ohhh Jodie! Ohhh Jodie! My love will turn you on!” All these years, I thought Hinckley had composed that song in his sick infatuation. Today, almost 40 years later, I found out that he just ripped off a John Lennon song called “Oh Yoko,” which I heard for the first time on the Beatles Channel on Sirius-XM. Am I the only one who didn’t know that? My ignorance is my fault: I would no more listen to anything extolling Yoko than I would voluntarily groove on “William Shatner’s Greatest Hits.”

And what was it about  Beatles compositions that inspired aspiring killers?

1. Yes, this seems rather irresponsible...Here’s a trailer for an upcoming Netflix series:

Over at The American Conservative, columnist Rod Dreher is disgusted, with good reason. He writes in part,

“Twerking their way to stardom. Eleven years old….These are little girls, and this Netflix show has the acting like strippers as a way of finding their way to liberation. What is wrong with these Netflix people? Do they not have children? Do they think our daughters are only valuable insofar as they can cosplay as sluts who are sexually available to men? ….There is nothing politicians can do about this…I hope sometime this fall a Senate committee calls Netflix CEO Reed Hastings] to Capitol Hill and forces him to talk about how proud he is that he has 11 year olds twerking on his degenerate network.”

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/22/2020: Let’s Stop Moping Around! Get Up! Get Out! Attack The Day! [Now With Leonard Bernstein!]

 

Update: I decided we needed a less pokey version, so now we have Leonard Bernstein’s, and the whole thing. THAT should cheer you up…

Boy, am I sick of everyone telling me how depressed they are.

1. Translation: “I’m an idiot.”  Now Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is saying  that the city will close the so-called “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” It turned out to be exactly what anyone with any sense predicted it would be, with three shootings so far and a rape, along with a leader ( war lord?) who had the gall to complain when the Seattle EMTs didn’t immediately respond when shots rang out. The mayor  had said that the anarchist outpost would lead to a “summer of love,” marking her as a Sixties-romanticizing dolt, but now she says she was obviously joking-–yes, the Joke Excuse. She never said it was “in jest” before the completely predictable violence broke out.

I apologize for not highlighting her as an Incompetent Elected Official of the Month, but she was competing with Bill De Blasio.

2. Fearmongering. It should be apparent by now that the news media does not want the country to re-open, does not want the economy to begin recovering before the election, and is pushing its anti-reopening goal through fearmongering, in part by focusing on isolated cases of individuals getting hit by the Wuhan virus particularly hard.

This morning HLN kept repeating a long feature about a thirtyish Broadway star who has been disabled by the virus for 80 days, and another man not in a high-risk group who has been suffering for 100 days. The Times and the Washington Post are full of apocalyptic reports about the number of cases rising. Another news outlet said, “The U.S. reported more than 33,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday – the highest total since May 1 – while the surge of infections in several states is outpacing growth in coronavirus testing.”  ARRRGH! We;re DOOOMED!

One commentator called this “needless” frightening the public. Wrong. It is  needed because it is a part of the ongoing effort to defeat President Trump.

The Centers for Disease Control predicted that cases would increase as the country reopened, not that it has much credibility at this point. Remember? The lock down was never intended to stop the spread of the disease, but to slow it down,  flatten the curve, stock up on supplies, fix the CDC’s testing botch, and find treatments. That was mostly accomplished. The nation cannot continue to let the economy deteriorate: depressions kill people too.

Meanwhile, the death rate is declining even as the number of cases spike, and there’s a reason for that. In all outbreaks, a disease claims the most vulnerable first. This is known as Farr’s Law, named after William Farr,  a British epidemiologist and early statistician  who recognized the importance of death statistics and identifying causation. Not only has the current epidemic claimed many of the most vulnerable in the U.S., thanks in great part to the catastrophic decision of states like New York to send infected seniors to nursing homes, millions of Americans have antibodies.

The combination means that even if there are lots of new cases going forward, the death toll is likely to be far less severe than it has been. Do not hold your breath waiting for the media to explain this.

Just for fun,  check and see how many news organizations have mentioned Farr’s Law. Continue reading

So The Judge’s Wife Is On The Jury…Wait, WHAT?

“Hi hon!”

I haven’t seen this before.

Judge Thomas Ensor of Adams County, Colorado, now retired, sat back and allowed his wife to be empaneled on the jury trying Gary Val Richardson for allegedly firing one or two shots in the direction of police officers during a 2013 standoff.

The judge even thought the situation was funny. He joked during jury selection that lawyers should “be nice to Juror 25. My dinner is on the line.” After the jury was selected and sworn in, Ensor told the lawyers that he had never heard of a sitting judge having a spouse or family member on the jury. “There’s nothing wrong with it,” he said. “I think she’ll be a fine juror. I have not spoken to her about this case.”

One of my rules of thumb for avoiding legal ethics problems in trial is that if you’ve never heard of something being done before, there’s probably a good reason not to be the first to do it. Continue reading

“You Keep Using That Word, ‘Ethics.’ I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means…” [CORRECTED!]

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission is a supposedly essential and honorable government agency whose mission is “ to promote and strengthen the faith and confidence of the people of Wisconsin in their government, support the operation of open and responsible government, preserve the integrity of the governmental decision-making process, and protect the rights of individuals through the administration of Wisconsin’s campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws, and through readily available and understandable disclosure of information.​”

Democrat Scot Ross was named to Wisconsin’s state Ethics Commission last week.  What are his qualifications? Well, he’s a career partisan journalist and bare-knuckles political activist, neither of which are occupations that tend to build strong ethics alarms, or, as they are currently conceived, have any use for them. They do have a tendency to vomit out people like Ross.

This week,  the new ethics commission member retweeted a photoshopped image —Do I really have to show it to you? I guess I do— Continue reading

Baseball May Be Missing, But Baseball Ethics Marches On; The MLB Verdict On The Boston Red Sox Sign Stealing Allegations

If you are just joining us, the Houston Astros (if you don’t know that’s a baseball team, then none of this will make sense to you, and neither does the United States in all likelihood) were slammed by Major League Baseball after it was determined that the team, primarily through the efforts of then-coach Alex Cora and veteran player Carlos Beltran, systematically utilized cameras at home games to steal catchers’ signs to opposing pitchers and relay them to Astros batters during their at-bats. This, the investigation found, continued through the 2017 season, post-season and World Series, which the Astros won. (Ethics Alarms covered the cheating scandal from many aspects, here.) The punishment meted out to the Astros was substantial, though not as severe as some, including me, would have liked. I think the team should have been stripped of their 2017 World Championship.

Shortly after the Astros scandal was first revealed by the baseball news media, the next year’s World Champions, the Boston Red Sox, were accused of another sign stealing scheme during 2018, one that involved using the team’s video replay equipment, which is near the dugout during games, to study the opposing team’s signs and relay them to batters. This seemed especially ominous since the bench coach  who had been identified as the mastermind behind the Astros scheme in 2017 was the manager of the Red Sox in 2018, and had led them to a record-setting World Series run.

MLB interviewed Red Sox players and management in a mysteriously long investigation, and only yesterday revealed the results and the sanctions. Boston’s video replay system operator J.T. Watkins was suspended without pay for one year, and banned from holding that same position with any team. Boston was stripped of the  its second-round draft pick in the2020  amateur.  Alex Cora, who was fired by the Red Sox in January after the revelations from the Astros investigation,  was suspended for this year, but only for his Astros conduct in 2017. The investigation exonerated him of any role in the Sox matter, which MLB found to be confined to Watkins acting on his own intermittently, and a few players. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/4/2020: Marching To Georgia Edition

Hello, I must be going…

Desperately trying to get this post out before the walls close in. I’m doing a program for an always receptive BigLaw firm in Atlanta, and its a program I know well, and I’m still anxious about it. It doesn’t help that I have some kind of cold, but the show must go on…

1. Super Tuesday musings…

  • Last night, I stumbled on  a Fox News panel discussing the Julie Principle at length regarding Joe Biden’s brain farts and Trump’s Tweets! They didn’t use that term, of course, but it would have helped explicate what they were trying to say, which was that once you’ve decided to accept the flaws of a candidate, more evidence of those flaws won’t change your support.
  • Speaking of… Joe Biden got his sister and his wife mixed up during his victory speech. If there was ever a question of how much the country doesn’t want socialism, the fact that so many Democrats preferred to vote for this sad husk than capitulate to Bernie should answer it.
  • How proud I am of my home state, which told the world that even voters who know  best, and presumably support to some extent, Elizabeth Warren don’t think she should be President. Thus they validated Abe Lincoln’s rule: you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Warren was the 2020 field’s worst demagogue and biggest hypocrite, as well as one of the most shameless liars. As I write this, she hasn’t dropped out yet, perhaps because she doesn’t want to help Sanders, whom she still resents for saying that a women couldn’t be elected President. Well, he was right as far as she is concerned. Good.

Warren was easily my least favorite of the Democratic contenders from an ethics standpoint. After I posted on Facebook about one of her many deceptions, a friend, apparently seriously, commented that I seemed to have a real bias against her. It reminded me of one of Martin Short’s brilliant improvs as idiot celebrity interviewer “Jiminy Glick,” when he cracked up Mel Brooks by asking, “Now what is it that you have against Hitler?”

2. Wait, he did WHAT??? Cedric Sunray, a college recruiter from Oklahoma Christian University,  visited Harding Charter Preparatory High School in Oklahoma City last month and met with 110 juniors and four teachers in the gymnasium to talk about opportunities at the college. He then asked the students to line up from darkest to lightest skin complexion, and then line up from “nappiest” to straightest hair.  As the students lined up, some of the teachers left to report the request to school administrators, who intervened. Sunray was quickly fired.

Sunray later wrote that the exercise was meant to be an “icebreaker” and that he has made the same presentation dozens of times at other institutions. Really? And nobody complained?

The president of Oklahoma Christian University, John deSteiguer, visited the prep school to apologize to students and staff members. Too late, I’d say. Any school that would let someone like Sunray represent it is too inept to be trusted. Continue reading

How The Beautiful People Hate It When The King’s Pass Is Revoked! The Caroline Baumann Saga

Baumann and “the dress.”

Rationalization #11, The King’s Pass or The Star Syndrome, is more than a rationalization. For America’s celebrities, star performers and elite athletes, the super-wealthy and the politically powerful, it is a way of life. From the description on the Rationalizations List: “Celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head.”

Most of the time, however, the King’s Pass is not rejected, and as long as the miscreant involved hasn’t dared to wind up on the wrong side of a political divide, his or her fellow “kings” will make the biggest stink since the skunk factory exploded when one of the elite club is forced to tow the lines drawn for their inferiors.

Two weeks ago, Carolyn Baumann was forced to resign as the director of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in Manhattan after a government  investigation found that she had engaged in conduct connected to her wedding that made inappropriate use of her position for personal  benefit. The Smithsonian’s inspector general had looked into irregularities regarding the procurement of her wedding  dress and the wedding space after a complaint was made by a museum staff member, and didn’t like what he found. Continue reading

New Week Ethics Jolt, 2/24/2020: Uncivil Gravestones, Conflicted Zamboni Drivers, And Unintelligent Intelligence Experts

Hello, mates!

That hilarious novelty song, a big hit in the same year Kennedy was shot, is now too politically incorrect to play in the U.S. Is it also song non grata Down Under?

1. Unethical Headline of the Day. From the Washington Freebeacon, a conservative news site: Dem Megadonor, Gun-Control Activist Harvey Weinstein Convicted on Rape Charges. This unethical device is used a lot now, though seldom this flagrantly. It’s Cognitive Dissonance Scale gamesmanship, attempting to smear positions that the headline-writer opposes by linking them to conduct that they have no relationship to.  There is no logical reason why gun control or the Democrats should be implicated in a headline to Weinstein’s rape conviction. I’m not even sure the connection belongs in the news story at all.

2. Gee, I wonder why the President doesn’t trust his intelligence specialists. The Russian collusion conspiracy theory flared up again among the Trump Deranged after Shelby Pierson, the official in the intelligence community charged with election security, apparently botched her briefing to Congress.

Three national security officials told CNN that the briefer falsely (wrongly, mistakenly) said that Russia was planning to help Trump win re-election:

The US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with. But the US does not have evidence that Russia’s interference this cycle is aimed at reelecting Trump, the officials said. “The intelligence doesn’t say that,” one senior national security official told CNN. “A more reasonable interpretation of the intelligence is not that they have a preference, it’s a step short of that. It’s more that they understand the President is someone they can work with, he’s a dealmaker.”

Since this comes from CNN, otherwise known as Bash The President Central, it cannot be dismissed as administration spin. My Facebook Friends reacted to the original story with utter glee, gloating that they knew Russia viewed Trump as a Russian asset.

If Trump fired her, and I wouldn’t blame him, he’ll be accused of a “purge.” Continue reading